Adapted dandelions trade dispersal for germination upon root herbivore attack

Zoe Bont, Marc Pfander, Christelle A.M. Robert, Meret Huber, Erik H. Poelman, Ciska E. Raaijmakers, Matthias Erb*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A plant’s offspring may escape unfavourable local conditions through seed dispersal. Whether plants use this strategy to escape insect herbivores is not well understood. Here, we explore how different dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.) populations, including diploid outcrossers and triploid apomicts, modify seed dispersal in response to root herbivore attack by their main root-feeding natural enemy, the larvae of the common cockchafer Melolontha melolontha. In a manipulative field experiment, root herbivore attack increased seed dispersal potential through a reduction in seed weight in populations that evolved under high root herbivore pressure, but not in populations that evolved under low pressure. This increase in dispersal potential was independent of plant cytotype, but associated with a reduction in germination rate, suggesting that adapted dandelions trade dispersal for establishment upon attack by root herbivores. Analysis of vegetative growth parameters suggested that the increased dispersal capacity was not the result of stress flowering. In summary, these results suggest that root herbivory selects for an induced increase in dispersal ability in response to herbivore attack. Induced seed dispersal may be a strategy that allows adapted plants to escape from herbivores.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20192930
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1921
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2020



  • Dandelion
  • Plant–herbivore interactions
  • Seed dispersal
  • White grubs

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